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Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Comcast to Offer New HD DVR Digital Cable Box

Panasonic and Comcast announced an agreement for the manufacture and deployment of Comcast's new series of digital cable set-top boxes, referred to as "RNG."

These set-top boxes will be compliant with the OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP) specifications. The companies have agreed to make Panasonic's OCAP middleware available to Comcast, as well as to jointly explore and develop extensions to the OCAP specifications.

Under the agreement, Panasonic will supply Comcast with digital cable set-top boxes with the processing power and advanced functionality. The Panasonic digital set-top boxes will have high-definition digital video recording (DVR) capabilities with a minimum of 250 GB storage capacity, which essentially doubles the amount of DVR storage currently available on Comcast DVR set-top boxes. In addition, these boxes will have both MPEG-2 and H.264 decoder capabilities. The H.264 capabilities will offer higher video compression rates and could let consumers use their televisions to enjoy media elements commonly available on the Internet.

The new set-top boxes will also come with a USB 2.0 that will let consumers connect other media devices, such as digital cameras or music players, to their televisions. Panasonic will manufacture and supply Comcast with 250,000 HD-DVR set-top boxes. Comcast will have the option to acquire up to a total of one million set-top boxes in the first year, with options for additional boxes in subsequent years. The initial 250,000 set-top boxes will be supplied with Panasonic's OCAP middleware.

OCAP is a middleware software standard that enables application developers to create new interactive services that will run on a broad range of advanced digital set top boxes and cable-ready TVs. Among the OCAP software extensions the companies will develop are those that enable Comcast-deployed set-top boxes to easily interact with a wide variety of Panasonic Consumer Electronics (CE) devices " such as plasma TVs, home theater systems and DVD recorders that will be equipped with Panasonic's HDAVI Control capability. HDAVI Control capability will let consumers activate and operate all devices in a home theater, including the digital cable set-top, with a single remote and through a unified user interface.

Currently, operating a cable set-top box with CE devices requires individual remote controls and uses multiple user interfaces. With the new OCAP-enabled interactive digital devices, Comcast customers will be able to control the functions of their digital cable set-top boxes and Panasonic home theater equipment with HDAVI Control capability through a single remote control and interface.

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